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The Most Important Deaths in Comic History

Whether they were victims of an assassination, caught in the crossfire during a superhero battle, or simply died of natural causes (which actually happens in comics much more than you'd think), all of the deaths in comic books have some impact big or small. Even those characters that only last a few issues. But which comic book deaths are the most important? This list has the deaths that have rocked comic-dom to its core, as ranked by the community.

This list is about those big ones, those with enormous impact, those that are still felt in the pages of their respective books to this day. Deaths so important that they effect the very fabric of the hero's identity and have made their way into popular culture in general as well.

Vote up the most important deaths in comic book history below. The deaths that forever changed the world of comics and beyond.
  • Photo: Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys / Marvel Comics

    Maybe no death has ever affected the title character quite like Gwen Stacy's. Gwen Stacy made her first appearance way back in 1965 in Amazing Spider-Man #31, as a fellow undergrad student at Empire State University. A fellow science major, she becomes smitten with Pete due to his sense of humor and scientific mind. He ignores her advances at first, and she retaliates by dating both Harry Osborn and Flash Thompson, then eventually they date. It gets off to a rocky start but it's clearly true love. Marriage is discussed often, and only delayed when her father, Captain George Stacy, is killed by Doc Ock during a fight with Spider-Man.

    They eventually get through this rough patch and for a time all is well. Until the Green Goblin kidnaps her, knowing that she's Peter/Spider-Man's girlfriend, and holds her hostage on the George Washington Bridge. A battle rages, eventually culminating in the Goblin throwing Gwen off the side of the bridge and Spider-Man instinctively shooting a web line catching her by the foot... breaking her neck.

    Peter is never truly sure if the Green Goblin had killed her first or if it was his own doing and it haunts him forever. It also ushers in Mary Jane becoming a more mature and compassionate person eventually allowing their own relationship to take place. It's still to this day argued whether or not Peter Parker would even be with Mary Jane if not for Gwen's death.

    She died 40 years ago and it still influences the book on a weekly basis. It's like Lois and Clark without Lois. It's like not only did Lois die, but Clark accidentally killed her. It's the biggest death in comics, one so large it ended the Silver Age of comic books.

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  • Photo: Batman: A Death In The Family / DC Comics

    Another extremely influential DC Comics death is without question Jason Todd. Not only did his death hugely effect Batman fans, it was CAUSED by Batman fans.

    DC let the fans decide the fate of the boy wonder via a 1-900 telephone poll where he was killed by a decision of 5343 to 5271.

    In the Death in the Family storyline in 1988 Jason Todd is killed at the hands of Joker by being beaten nearly to death with a crow bar... and then blown up. The cover of Batman #428 with Batman carrying a lifeless Jason Todd out of the wreckage is one of the most iconic comic book images in history. The death of Robin left a huge mark on all of DC for years to come and it wasn't until 2005 that the character was brought back, as an anti-hero much in the same vein as Batman, but without Batman's no kill rule.

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  • Photo: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga / Marvel Comics

    In comics, death equals resurrection, and no one knows that better than Jean Grey.

    The Dark Phoenix Saga from 1980 is a tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely. A few years prior, X-Scribe Chris Claremont decided to turn one of the X-Men's weakest members into its most powerful. Jean was piloting the damaged X-Jet back to earth and after being exposed to fatal levels of radiation, she is forced to use her full psychic and telekinetic potential, killing her, and birthing the Phoenix.

    After a few failed attempts by the Hellfire Club to brainwash her, she starts to lose her grasp on reality. Now referring to herself only as the Phoenix she begins terrorizing space, eventually destroying an entire inhabited galaxy by consuming a star. Realizing the terrible things she's done and that she can't control this immeasurable power, she kills herself to protect her X-Men and the rest of the universe.

    Now, she's come back from this "death" countless times since (always in varied and different forms, as technically the original Marvel Girl died as soon as The Phoenix was born), but this was such a huge event, that it arguably re-shaped how death is handled in comics. It was genre redefining.

    It was also a brilliant commentary on power, innocence, and love, in a setting with infinite scope, which is what comics are all about.

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    Bucky Barnes

    Photo: Avengers Vol 1, #4 / Marvel Comics

    Bucky. What list of comic book deaths would be complete without Bucky Barnes.

    Introduced way back in 1941, his death was so iconic, and seemingly permanent that the phrase "only Bucky stays dead" was commonly tossed around in 90s when the revolving door of death and resurrection was somehow even more routine.

    Bucky was killed way back in 1964 in Avengers #4 as told via a Captain America flashback, as they deactivated one of the Red Skull's bombs on a plane over the Atlantic. Cap was able to hop off in time but James Buchanan Barnes wasn't so lucky, he stayed latched on and finished the deactivation, saving Rogers and hundreds of others.

    He actually stayed dead for DECADES until his return as The Winter Soldier in 2005, which was the basis for the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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